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The Important Relationship Between Teeth and Nutrition Is Explained

Some foods damage teeth. (submitted by Frederiksted Health Care Inc.)

The following is information from Destrey Ralston, RDH and Frederiksted Health Care Inc. Dental Team

Nutrition plays a big role in keeping our bodies healthy

The relationship between oral health (mouth) and systemic health (body) shows how every aspect of our health can be affected by what we eat and drink. For example, ingesting too much sugar can contribute to obesity, dental decay, gum disease, diabetes and many other ailments. The dental team with Frederiksted Health Care Inc. would like to help explain why diet and nutrition isn’t just important for a person’s systemic health but also important for oral health.

Cavities (dental decay) are easily connected to a diet high in sugar and sticky carbohydrates

Bacteria feed on the sugar we eat and drink. As the bacteria feed, they produce an acidic waste that erodes the hard outer layer of the tooth (enamel) resulting in a cavity. Once the enamel layer is compromised and the soft inner layer (dentin) is exposed, the decay progresses fast which can lead to pain, infection, loss of function, early tooth loss and other complications.

The length of time and frequency teeth are exposed to sugar affects your cavity risk

Even 100 percent natural foods/beverages put your teeth at risk. Juice, for example, may be 100 percent pure fruit but if sipped on for long periods of time causes the oral environment to become harmful. The more sugar available for decay-causing bacteria, the more acids produced and the more damage caused. Sticky carbohydrates like candy and fruit snacks adhere to the teeth, which increases the length of time the mouth is an acidic environment. It takes approximately 30 minutes to 2+ hours for the mouth to balance the pH levels from an acidic damaging environment to a safe neutral environment. Once balanced, enzymes in our saliva will help to rebuild/strengthen areas of the enamel that were affected. Every drink or bite taken resets the clock on our body’s ability to reverse the damaging effects of bacterial acids.

To reduce the risk of cavities, simple changes to your diet can be helpful

Try to always make water your first choice. A reusable water bottle can help encourage or remind one to drink more water frequently. Water also helps to reduce acids and helps cleanse the mouth of food debris. If someone has something sweet to eat or drink, limit the exposure by avoiding snacking or sipping for long periods of time. Snacking on healthy foods like nuts, seeds, whole fruits, vegetables, lean meats, cheese and plain milk will help limit sugar intake between meals.

Make oral hygiene a priority

The stages of tooth decay (submitted chart)

Most dental issues can be avoided with consistent brushing and interdental cleaning. Use toothpaste and mouth rinses that contain fluoride; fluoride is proven to be effective in preventing and reversing the beginning stages of dental decay. Brush at least twice daily, most importantly before bed. Brushing alone does not reach the areas between your teeth so added attention is needed in these areas via flossing, interdental brushes, water flossers, etc. Getting regular dental exams is also important to detect decay early before more major issues develop; bi-annual dental exams are recommended.

Our bodies are also negatively affected by poor diet

Diabetes is a disease that affects the body’s ability to regulate sugar levels. Insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating sugar does not function properly so there are higher levels of sugar in the blood. Sugar is essential for some bodily functions but excessive amounts are damaging. Some examples of damage: blood vessels become damaged leading to increased risk of heart disease and stroke, nerve damage can lead to loss of limbs, and the body is unable to fight infection or heal.

Periodontitis (gum and bone disease) can make controlling sugar levels in your blood more difficult

Diabetes can make it more difficult for the body to fight the negative effects of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease can lead to early tooth loss, pain, bleeding gums, infection, and contributes to many other health issues. Dental cleanings are strongly recommended at least twice a year but may be recommended more often by a person’s dentist depending on one’s oral health needs.

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